L was in London with her betrothed, S. Pizza was on the cards.
"I have a few places to show you." I intimated as we discussed our plans on the phone. "I think Fratelli la Bufala might be a winner."
"No." Her response took me back. Had she changed her mind? Was my mission off? I swallowed awkwardly. "We're going to go to where S's friend works."
It turns out that the said Italian works at Santore in Exmouth Market. It was on my list but, to be honest, I didn't have high expectations. Until I saw videos of the very same Italian performing what I can only describe as pizza-base throwing acrobatics back in 2008 on You Tube - then heard that he had got through the first round of auditions for Britain's Got Talent. It was then that I realised I had competition.
The restaurant was at the end of the market, the outside seating enclosed under a British-weather-proof marquee with outdoor heaters. We were seated between two, and, after what felt like a session under a sun bed, I had to move. But, once settled and with a glass of Prosecco in hand, I turned to the menu. I was assured that the oven was wood fired (tick) and, as we were friends of the chef, we were able to secure fresh buffalo mozzarella on our pizzas too (double tick). I decided to go with the Quattro Stagioni (that's mushroom, artichoke, ham and pepperoni if you were wondering). L, of course, went for a Margherita, and caused a bit of confusion when she insisted that she wanted the cheese melting rather than adding raw once the pizza was cooked. But, after a lot of gesturing and animated chatter in Italian, her request was agreed.
I admit, the pizza was pretty good - the cheese was delicious and the base was pretty much spot on. I was mildly disappointed not to be offered sprinkles, but then I'm not sure the food needed the extra flavour. L was also impressed - the melted cheese had made her base a bit soggy, but apparently, in her eyes, this is a good thing. This information may well push up the ratings of a lot of the other pizzas I have tried but, after a couple of Stregas (yet another tick!) L and I argued over Santore's score. I suggested an 8 - L thought it was worthy of a 9.5. I agreed to compromise with an 8 and a half out of ten, which does put it in the lead, and, when we returned the following night (I told you she was impressed), it managed to reach the same standard. That, along with the friendly connection, might just make it a winner.
But, like I have said before, I am taking this mission very seriously. Operation:Pizza has yet to be aborted...